Another of my favourite things in the gallery is the range of appliqué bedspreads from the remote desert town of Barmer in Rajasthan. To be precise these are actually reverse appliqué, a technique where one of two layers of fabric is cut away to produce a pattern, and embroidery added to the exposed under-layer.
It is an extremely time-consuming process and each exquisite piece takes approximately 200 hours to produce. We have two variations, one much more restrained than the other, and while I like them both my choice for my own bed is the one below, which I love. To me, there is something extremely joyous and life affirming in the floral design and colours used and it gives me pleasure every day.
Each of the more colourful Jaisalmer Bedspreads above is a unique work of art while the Kutch bedspreads, from the same source, are more similar to each other. The pops of colour against the cream background seem to echo the colourful clothing of the women against the arid, colourless background of the Thar desert. The Barmer area, once on the camel trade route at one end of the various Silk Roads, is now designated one of the country’s most backward districts.
We buy these bedspreads from a workers’ co-operative. The women used to be paid a pittance for their work, being unaware of the market price for their goods, but since forming the co-operative they have a sustainable livelihood and the wonderful skills and traditions are more likely to thrive and survive.
Our ajrak block print bedspreads are from the same co-operative. The name is most probably derived from the Arabic ‘azarak’ meaning blue, which is the predominant colour used along with touches of red. The dyes used are natural indigo and madder, both native to the Indian sub-continent. For this reason they should never be washed in biological detergent.